November 1, 2010

Sri Lanka off to a winning start in Australia


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Sri Lankans haven’t had particularly pleasing memories of their past tours of Australia. They have been at the receiving end more often than not and it was an odd country where they had not been able to come good despite so much promise.

Things appear different now with the once impregnable Australians having become vulnerable now and the Sri Lankans having made advancements in world cricket with the discovery of a few most talented youngsters.

It has become evident in the very first encounter between the two sides that it’s a different ball game now. Watching the Sri Lankans dominate the hosts at the WACA in Perth on October 31 was an unusual sight but not totally unexpected.

Sri Lanka looked the more formidable of the two combatants but more importantly they were able to translate their supremacy into a massive win in the one-off Twenty20 International.

Sri Lanka were in total control of the proceedings from the outset and they didn’t allow the Aussies to stage a forceful comeback as they had earlier this year in their clash in the Caribbean during the ICC World T20.

The only period when the Australians threatened to pull it back was when Brad Haddin and Steve Smith were putting together a big partnership but their dismissal in one Suraj Randiv over prevented an onslaught in the death overs.

The Sri Lankan bowling remained hostile yet accurate. Speedster Lasith Malinga was guilty of spraying a few wides down the leg side but that hardly mattered in the final count. The fast bowling was terrific and the spin duo of Randiv and that man Mutiah Muralitharan was spot on.

Australia, having slumped to 43 for five in the 11th over, did give themselves a sniff by recovering to 133 for eight in the allotted 20 overs. Getting 90 runs off the last 10 overs was quite an accomplishment but the damage had been done in the first half of their innings.

The Sri Lankan fielding was top class and it played a key role in the limited the hosts. The running catch Dilhara Fernando took to get rid of the threatening Michael Clarke represented the improved skills of the visitors. It was a spectacular one-handed catch that stunned the spectators.

With the bowlers and the fielders having done the job, the task was made easier for their batsmen and they latched on the opportunity. The target of 134 was unlikely to tease the visitors and they did get it very comfortably indeed.

Such a marvelous start should inspire the Sri Lankans in the upcoming ODI series and they should have greater confidence now after having overpowered the hosts so decisively in the T20 game. I think Sri Lanka have their best chance to beat Australia in Australia.

The Sri Lankans, the form in which they are in, must be regretting having just three ODIs besides the one T20 during the tour. The Australians need to lift their game to be in the better frame of mind for upcoming Ashes battle.

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